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  1. #11
    freezeframe is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Illegal vs. Unlawful

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    Example 1 unlawful = illegitimate

    Example 2 unlawful = illicit (His love wasn't illigal. Laws don't forbid feelings.)

    I have no patience to look for an example of an unlawful love affair that was not illegal, but I also don't think it's necessary. Example 2 tells us that "unlawful" can (or could) be used in the meaning of "illicit".

    It may have been better if I'd written "can/could" as I did with "is/was".
    Both examples read to me as affected language. Probably because it's archaic. I don't think people would say this anymore unless they're trying to write historical fiction.

  2. #12
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Illegal vs. Unlawful

    I've found a few modern examples of "unlawful son" by Google. I won't cite them here -- they're easy to find. Clearly, it's rare usage today.

  3. #13
    Soup's Avatar
    Soup is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Illegal vs. Unlawful

    Quote Originally Posted by rabalac View Post
    Are there any circumstances where one of these terms can be used but not the other? If there are, I dare you to write a sentence where only one of these words could be used.
    "He ruled that instructions given by the Home Office to immigration officials were unlawful and needed urgent revision."

    If the word unlawful is replaced by illegal, it would be a totally different situation, some officers may have to face the jurisdiction.


    Source

  4. #14
    Soup's Avatar
    Soup is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Illegal vs. Unlawful

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    I've found a few modern examples of "unlawful son" by Google.
    Also, unlawfully wedded husband (meaning, not genuine, as in not authorized by law); *illegally wedded husband.

    Ex: Do you take ____ to be your (un)lawfully/*illegally wedded husband?

  5. #15
    Hucky is offline Member
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    Default Re: Illegal vs. Unlawful

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    Although married couples were lawfully wedded, I have not heard of an illegitimate child (i.e. one born to an unmarried couple) referred to as an unlawful child.

    Equally, I have not heard of a love affair called unlawful and legal; It may be illicit, but I don't think it's unlawful unless it's illegal.
    You are thrice mistaken! (All good things ...) You seem to have an unlawful-problem. Have a close look at my contribution to follow soon! I have added an extra part for you at the end.

  6. #16
    Hucky is offline Member
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    Default Re: Illegal vs. Unlawful

    As the consultation of some 20 monolingual dictionaries of the English language, a few technical dictionaries of law and commercial law, dictionaries of collocations and thesauri has established that the denotations (semantics) of the two adjectives do not deviate very much from each other. The two dictionaries that best render the semantic differences are the Oxford Dictionary of English (ODE), the Oxford American Dictionary (OAD), and Webster`s Third New International Dictionary WTNID (latest editions each).

    OED/OAD:
    entry: illegal: contrary to or forbidden by law, especially criminal law
    entry: unlawful: not conforming to, permitted by, or recognized by law or rules

    The second part of the upper definition is a first hint to the difference between the two terms.
    In addition to its definitions the OED offers a usage note to explicate the differences. It says:

    Illegal und unlawful have slightly different meanings, although they are often used interchangeably. Something that is illegal is against the law, whereas an unlawful act merely contravenes the rules that apply in a particular context. Thus handball in soccer is unlawful, but it is not illegal.

    The non-criminal meaning of unlawful is also emphasized by the third and fourth senses in the WTNID entry unlawful:

    3 : contrary to normal or acceptable procedure : IRREGULAR; esp : not morally right or conventional (unlawful love) (unlawful pleasures)
    4 : born out of wedlock : ILLEGITIMATE

    More confirming evidence can be obtained from the Specialist Dictionary of Law (Pons)

    Illegal: not legal or against criminal law
    Unlawful: (act) which is against the law

    It may shed light on the matter to cite some collocations with the two adjectives taken from law dictionaries:

    illegal: act, activities, conditions, considerations, contract, interest, practices, profit, trade, transactions, carrying of arms, immigrants, drugs

    unlawful: act, assembly, detainer, picketing, profits, trespass on property, sexual intercourse, assembly, ban, violence

    That wraps it up for tonight!


    appendix for fivejedjon (and anyone interested):

    The following two para are quotations from your no. 7 (my emphasis)

    Although married couples were lawfully wedded, I have not heard of an illegitimate child (i.e. one born to an unmarried couple) referred to as an unlawful child.

    ad 1) comp. WTNID no. 4!

    Equally, I have not heard of a love affair called unlawful and legal; It may be illicit, but I don't think it's unlawful unless it's illegal.

    ad 2) love affair called unlawful and legal - comp. WTNID no. 3 (moral meaning) and collocations!

    ad 3) unless it's illegal - here is the definition of unlawful sexual intercourse (quotation from: Pons Law Dictionary): sexual intercourse with someone under the age of consent

    P.S. What unheard-of argument is that: I have not heard Most existing things have never been heard by you or anyone!

  7. #17
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Illegal vs. Unlawful

    Thus handball in soccer is unlawful, but it is not illegal.
    This is strange to me. I don't think I have come across the word "unlawful" in such contexts. I've always heard and said things like, "It's illegal to throw a ball in volleyball."

  8. #18
    Hucky is offline Member
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    Default Re: Illegal vs. Unlawful

    Meanwhile, I have had time to open a few more tomes. What I have come across goes hand in hand with what I found out yesterday.

    Here are two examples from the Collins Cobuild Corpus (British English) to attest to no. 3.

    1) He was appointed as temporary replacement for coach ..., jailed in March for unlawful sex with a 15-year-old girl.

    2) H., 39, a married man of ..., admitted to unlawful carnal knowledge of the girl in 1998.

    The authors quoted in the following passages may also serve as verification.

    Illegal, unlawful
    These words, though largely overlapping, have developed certain differentiations. Illegal is the most precise, with its meaning of contrary to the law of the land. Unlawful, with its sweeping implications of comprising what is forbidden not only by the law of the land but also by higher authority such as international law or divine ordinance, is falling into disuse in common currency. (Gowers, Oxford 1965)

    Partridge (London, 1999) takes a similar stand. With Peters (Cambridge, 2004) the above mentioned process of falling into disuse seems to be completed. Although she has an article with the headword illegal with its synonyms, unlawful is no more included.

  9. #19
    Hucky is offline Member
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    Default Re: Illegal vs. Unlawful

    Browsing through further pertinent literature I have tracked down some more pieces of information pertaining to our issue. The following quotations are taken from the Oxford Thesaurus of the English Language (latest edition):

    An illegal action, activity, or object is one that is specifically forbidden by law, especially criminal law (illegal drug use / he was accused of possessing illegal weapons).

    Anything that is illegal necessarily also unlawful. However, unlawful has a wider application than illegal, referring also to actions that are not sanctioned by the law (sue the commissioner for unlawful arrest / the use of unlawful violence).

    Moreover, I have checked the born out of wedlock meaning in a number of bilingual dictionaries in different language combinations with English. Most of the comprehensive ones attested to this meaning.

  10. #20
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Illegal vs. Unlawful

    I am closing the thread because of the personal attacks being made in it. Please stop it and please don't open a new thread to continue it.

    Tomsmith2010's post gives a perfectly good and clear answer to the question.

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